Sunday 27 November 2022

Lowering the impact of holidays and travel

cycle touring

I read and watch a lot of bikepacking/touring content. This time of year especially it's away from the UK, somewhere warm. Which is great, I can understand the desire when home is so cold and wet; except for the environmental cost.

It nearly always involves flying. Magazine articles discuss riding sections of various grand tours, and I'd like to do them. But the default way to get there isn't by train or ferry, both much better choices. I know they still pollute, certainly more than visiting local destinations, but not the amount that a plane does. One problem is cost, flying is subsidised, and train travel is not. No tax on aviation fuel for example.

The wider picture is that going abroad is still considered a proper holiday, anything closer to home, or a "staycation" less so; I hate that word. I think it was invented by the travel industry to further push their agenda and make not flying a sign of having missed out.

I have looked a train travel; it's not good if you want to take your bike. Some companies don't allow bikes, other do but require them to be boxed up. This is similar to flying so maybe not so big a deal. If you have to change services, it could become one.

Driving as an alternative is a consideration, but it's still not as efficient as public transport. And our roads can't cope. Between 1994 and 2021 the number of cars grew by 10,679,421. That's an increase of nearly 40%. Not to mention the cost of pasking, not what you pay into meters etc. The space needed to park is finite. And looking at my local area there isn't any left. Pavement parking blights the lives of too many. Being forced to walk on the road is unsafe, and may even be impractical if no dropped curbs are available.

Bike hire in popular locations is growing. The quality of the kit available seems on the whole to be good. So traveling without your bike could be an option.

Ferry travel is usually just ride on with little hassle. But it won't be suitable for many destinations, and is slow.

The furthest you can go in one hop is northern Spain. Which could get you to some Vuelta stages, and with a bit of riding to the Pyrenees.

The problem is time; it takes a day from Portsmouth to Santander. I think it's worth it to cut-out air travel though.

Hitching a lift on a cargo ship is another, even slower, option if you want to go further. This is becoming more widely available.

I'm not suggesting everyone only uses bikes, or never travels any other way. Just that more consideration needs to be given to the impact of destination and transport choices. And it's not just for holidays. Day to day decisions can have positive outcomes.

In short, we need to re-evaluate the way we travel.

Monday 21 November 2022

What is depression?

For me it's an umbrella term. 

I'll start this by saying I'm no expert, these are just my thoughts.

Depression doesn't just mean feeling low, unmotivated and unsure of the future. 

Anxiety, stress, low self esteem; they all contribute. 

The voice that says your aren't good enough, you won't succeed, your lack of skill or knowledge will be found out.

They all swirl around, maybe not always front and center affecting my life. Sometimes it will be just one symptom. And I can cope, other times they gang up and present more of a challenge.
A better definition of depression would be that it depresses quality of life, it stops you seeing and reaching your potential. It limits you, applies blinkers and reigns you in.

When it gets bad I stop looking too far ahead. 
Are there goals I can achieve that are closer?

Are there causes of stress or anxiety that I can't control?

What can I control?

Perhaps the hardest is to remember my successes. Why are mistakes so crystal clear and easy to recall?

I also look for distractions, probably a bit controversial this one. A mindfulness course leader said this is not a good tactic. But it works for me. I get on my bike and pedal and gain perspective. Especially at the end of a working day I can switch off; most of the time. Having a stresser in my head isn't healthy. I don't sleep or relax, both build over time to then affect all parts of my life. Maybe it's why I'm feeling the way I'm at the moment. Too much is getting in the way of cycling, or making it difficult.

I start the process of boxing up my issues and worries. 

Each box has a label: needs to be sorted soon, can be kept closed for a while, I can't resolve the contents, and not important.

I live for lists: partly because my memory isn't great, but also to cope. I feel less overwhelmed if I have  a plan. I'm sure a lot of people who know me wonder why I always need to see the future and work to rules or instructions. It's because if these are in place, I can then stop worrying about it.
It mainly comes down feeling in control. I am anxious because I haven't at least planned what I might do. Even if I'm not sure of the solution, I need a next step or task.

Thursday 17 November 2022

Keep it clean

south downs way

Bike mainetance maybe cheaper than yearly spending on a car, but it still a consideration.

Two new tyres for the Kona, one for the trainer, sorting a brake problem on the Giant, a new lock and rear light cost around £150 over the last thirty days. I don't commute so my outlay could have been higher.

Each time I have ridden into work I've saved £14.10, so that's £52.30 in total. Doing it everyday would cause more wear and tear, although I'd still be ahead over the year. I'm glad though that it's only once a month, because WFH is even cheaper.

What can I do to reduce costs? 

Keep the bikes clean; something I have been very bad at in the past. I rode until they stopped, then half-heartedly pointed a hose at them. My mileage has increased considerably over the last couple of years so that level of concern would have resulted in way higher expenditure. I'm sure Ross looked on with dread as I walked into his shop back then. 

The picture at the top is a bit extreme. Half way along the South Downs Way the bikes were suffering; at several points the wheels were so clogged they stopped turning. We did hose off the worst of it at the overmnight stop. But hadn't planned, as I would have now, to at least bring chain lube. Everything was pretty badly worn at the end.

typical condition
a typical condition

The view above is what the bikes would usually look like. There was a gradual build up of mud, not so bad for the frame and wheels maybe. But not good for the brakes and gears. I used to get home, lock up the bike in the garage and forget about it for a week.
I once had a b&b owner not want my bike taken inside for overnight storage because it looked so bad.

Only when the chain started to jump off the sprockets at almost every change would I head over to see Ross. A cursory clean would never provide the hoped for improvement. Everything lasts a lot longer now, and Ross has a smile on his face as I approach.

A clean bikes makes dealing with punctures and a dropped chain nicer as well. You still get a bit mucky hands but it's an easier clean.
It's also a good time to check for damage or fatigue. It's better to deal with something you discover now than on the road when a failure could have catastrophic consequences.


Russell if you are reading this; I know what you're going to say about my clothing. In my defence, I didn't know any better and black was pretty much the only colour companies produced back then. It was almost all off-road too.

Sunday 13 November 2022


I don't mean I'll be sleeping in a cave for the next six months, although it does appeal.

The club have shorter outings and I'm less inclined to go too far on my own. If it's been freezing overnight I'll either be in the garage or going out much later, I never thought about it much before. I have ridden in snow many times, it was fun for a while. The cold sets in quickly and then it's just not nice. And I've slid off too, resulting in just cuts and bruises. This year I have discovered that I no longer bounce.

It's difficult to know what to wear: is it going to rain, how cold is it going to be? 

Last weekend I was repeatedly soaked, but warm. I rode to work on Friday, and overdressed. This meant I was a little sweaty on arrival, luckily no-one noticed or at least commented. It was dark on the way home but I still had to remove a layer early on.

The video is from the ride into the London on Friday, through the center of Croydon. It felt like scene a from that Hitchcock movie.

Motivation takes a nosedive; luckily the garage trainer means I can have daily exercise even when the weather is bad. It's an old school unconnected contraption, no zwift etc for me. 

garage trainer

About thirty minutes is about all I can stand, it used to be an hour but a week of that and it starts to put me off riding completely. I once did over three hours to complete one hundred km, never again. Maybe next year I'll look at a smart trainer, I can race others in the club or anyone in the world.

I don't want to lose fitness, hopefully next year will see me completing a full season of time trials. 

So for me hibernation is more virtual, less cafe stops mean socialising diminishes, I do less outside and spend more time in my cave. Looking forward to the first signs of spring already and the plans I have for 2023.

Wednesday 9 November 2022

Is getting wet so bad?

sheltering from the rain

The last couple of weeks have been wet. I've gotten soaked more often than not. Is that a bad thing? Should it stop me riding?

The roads are slippery, you can't see potholes obscured by puddles, and there is a lot of debris that could be the cause of punctures.

I've written about the lack of good clothing before. The main problem is that you can quickly lose body temperature.

I have jackets, jerseys, gloves and shoes covers that promise a dry ride. Their cost varies but they all have one thing in common; they are at best only partially successful.

Some cause me to get so hot that I'm covered in sweat, so not much dryer than without them. Others just don't work. The better options do at least keep me warm, like a wetsuit does for divers. As long as I keep moving the layer of water next to my skin doesn't become a problem. If it's not too cold or windy I don't mind getting a bit wet.

Hands and feet are a bigger problem. Nothing keeps my feet dry, again the neoprene in the covers or socks means they don't get too cold. My hands can really suffer. I have to keep them dry. Gloves from Stolen Goat are the best so far until it becomes torrential. Spending more hasn't given better results.

The last affect of a downpour is when stopping at a cafe. I have to peel off soggy clothes and the owners aren't impressed with the water I bring in. A trail across the floor and a wet patch on the seat doesn't go down well. It's also when the cold can start to bite. I tend not to stop for these reasons, unless I know I can stay outside and be served quickly. A coffee certainy helps to ward off the cold and tiredness. 

If there is likely to be ice about, I now stay inside. I haven't in the past and I've been very lucky; until this year. Riding on snow is fun for a while; unfortunately the slower pace means I can't stay warm, and it's easy to fall off.